Blog

Who could benefit from seeing an Exercise Physiologist?

The short answer: everyone!

Exercise Physiologists (known as AEPs – Accredited Exercise Physiologists) are among the highest qualified exercise professionals in Australia, requiring a minimum four-year degree with 500 hours of placement. No matter what you think or feel about exercise, or your current level of physical activity, an AEP can help you to develop an active and healthy lifestyle based on the best scientific evidence and your individual needs and concerns. There are, however, some reasons that you should especially consider booking an appointment with an AEP.

teaching elder people to exercise

Chronic disease prevention and management

Exercise can help prevent, treat, or manage a wide variety of chronic diseases. An AEP will work with you to create an exercise prescription that is safe and effective based on your needs and goals, while also helping you to understand your diagnoses, symptoms, and the benefits of exercise for your condition. The aim of exercise physiology treatment is to give you the support and tools that help you to understand your health and maintain lifelong physical activity.

Coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction (heart attack)

Following a heart attack, exercise is incredibly beneficial, but can also seem overwhelming. You may have fears that you’ll overdo it and exacerbate symptoms or be navigating a long list of new medications and interventions that change the way your body responds to exercise. Your AEP will determine the duration, intensity, and types of exercises you should do to reduce your risk of further cardiac events while meeting other health, fitness, activity, or sporting goals you may have.

Heart failure

Heart failure, no matter the cause, may make normal daily activities incredibly difficult to complete, let alone exercising. The good news is an exercise prescription delivered by an AEP can minimise the effects of your heart failure through improving the way your muscles use oxygen, reducing peripheral vascular resistance meaning your heart doesn’t need to work as hard, and reversing some of the changes to your heart increasing its ability to pump blood around the body. Your AEP will also be able to monitor for signs and symptoms to ensure you can exercise safely.

Stroke

Following a stroke, you may notice a variety of changes depending on the area and amount of the brain effected. The good news is, despite what you may think about not being able to grow new brain cells, or the brain not being able to change past a certain age, our brains are constantly changing. This concept is called neuroplasticity, which means you may be able to regain functions that were affected by your stroke. Your AEP can help to regain strength and mobility, and work on physical skills like walking, climbing stairs, carrying, and standing from sitting or lying down, while also using exercise to minimise risk factors for further cardiovascular events.

elderly lady checking her blood pressure

Hypertension and cardiovascular risk factors

Cardiovascular diseases (coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, heart failure, stroke, peripheral artery disease, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism) involve changes to the heart, blood, and blood vessels that can be reduced or prevented with exercise. Exercise reduces blood pressure, reducing the amount of work your heart needs to do to pump blood around your body, while also improving your cholesterol and triglyceride levels reducing the build-up of atherosclerotic plaques. Your AEP can help you to choose safe and effective exercise types and intensities to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Hypertension and cardiovascular risk factors

Cardiovascular diseases (coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, heart failure, stroke, peripheral artery disease, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism) involve changes to the heart, blood, and blood vessels that can be reduced or prevented with exercise. Exercise reduces blood pressure, reducing the amount of work your heart needs to do to pump blood around your body, while also improving your cholesterol and triglyceride levels reducing the build-up of atherosclerotic plaques. Your AEP can help you to choose safe and effective exercise types and intensities to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

COPD

While exercise cannot reverse lung damage, it can still improve your capacity for daily activities as well as your quality of life. The lungs are just one of the body parts required during exercise and movement – through increasing your heart’s ability to circulate blood through the body, as well as your muscles’ ability to use oxygen from the blood, you can take some of the pressure off your lungs and reduce symptoms such as shortness of breath. Your AEP can help you to find exercises you can tolerate and provide strategies for managing shortness of breath.

Diabetes

We’ve previously written about the benefits of exercise for managing diabetes. If you’re struggling to manage exercising independently, an AEP can help you to find an active lifestyle that works for you, while also helping to monitor your blood sugar levels and keep you safe in the event of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Your AEP can also help you to exercise if your diabetes has caused damage to your eyes or nerves in your feet, which may worsen your balance and increase injury risk.

Kidney disease

Exercise is incredibly important for maintaining your overall health when living with kidney disease. Your AEP can assist you to maintain activities no matter the stage of your disease, while being aware of factors including medication or dialysis that impact how you can exercise. Your Exercise Physiologist may also assist you to exercise while undergoing dialysis to manage negative side effects.

nurse and elderly lady studying skeletal figure

Osteoporosis

In conjunction with an adequate diet and Vitamin D supplementation or sun exposure, exercise is one of the best tools for preventing osteoporosis and minimising further bone loss. Just like muscles, bones only stay strong if you use them – your AEP can provide you with exercises that load your bones while being safe, enjoyable, and improving your overall fitness and health.

Arthritis

Exercise is beneficial for all types of arthritis, however if you suffer from osteoarthritis, you should make an appointment with an Exercise Physiologist. Hearing descriptions like “wear and tear” and “bone on bone” can make it seem like your joints are a lost cause, but that is far from the case! The right exercises can reduce your pain and increase your ability to carry out the activities that you enjoy. Your AEP will prescribe exercises that strengthen the muscles around arthritic joints, while helping you to manage and reduce flare-ups caused by excessive overloading.

Cancer

Cancer comprises a variety of diseases with different symptoms, treatments, and prognoses based on the stage and type, but there is increasing evidence that most, if not all, cancer patients benefit from staying active during treatment. Cancer treatment itself can make it incredibly difficult to exercise, however your AEP can work with you to ensure you stay as active and mobile as possible, being mindful of your personal needs and comfort. Your AEP can also use exercise to help manage treatment side effects such as pain, nerve damage, and weakness, maintaining quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, and remission.

Multiple sclerosis

MS can cause a variety of symptoms that impact your ability to function in daily life. The good news is that exercise will not exacerbate your condition and can help to manage issues associated with MS including fatigue, coordination, balance, pain, and muscle tone, as well as improving your overall fitness and health. Your AEP will work with you to develop an exercise program to meet your individual needs and goals, while helping you find strategies to manage MS-related considerations such as fatigue, temperature, and sensory symptoms while you exercise.

Acquired brain injury

Brain injury can occur due to a variety of factors and can have a variety of effects depending on the type, severity, and location of the injury. Your AEP can help you to understand how the physical, mental, cognitive, and behavioural effects of your brain injury affect your ability to stay active, participate in exercise, and complete daily activities, and prescribe exercise to help address your individual concerns. Like we mentioned in our section above on stroke, the brain is always changing and forming new pathways, meaning you can relearn some functions affected due to your injury, or learn new skills to manage day-to-day functions. Exercise in general is a great way to keep your brain healthy after injury, and your AEP can prescribe specific exercises to improve your strength, balance, and coordination.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy has a variety of presentations that can affect motor skills, coordination, balance, and mobility. People with cerebral palsy may have high muscle tone (leading to spasticity or stiffness), or low muscle tone (where muscles are too relaxed leading to excessive flexibility), or a mix of both. Exercises can be used to reduce the stiffness of muscles with high tonicity, while increasing the stability of low-tone muscles. Your exercise physiologist can work with you to manage issues associated with muscle tone, while also prescribing exercise to address balance, coordination, gait, and falls risk, depending on your individual presentation and needs.

Parkinson’s disease

Exercise is one of the best ways to manage Parkinson’s disease (PD) and reduce its impact on your daily life. The right types and amounts of exercise can have a positive effect on the way your brain and neurotransmitters work together, reducing PD symptoms. An AEP can prescribe exercise to improve balance, coordination, and muscle strength and endurance while managing issues such as freezing, cramping, and reduced motivation.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome

Living with ME/CFS can be incredibly challenging and frustrating, with exercise (or any activity) making your symptoms worse.  While Graded Exercise Therapy is no longer recommended for ME/CFS, an AEP can support you with strategies to manage daily tasks, rest, and recover, while maintaining strength and mobility.

Autoimmune diseases

While having an autoimmune disease may reduce your tolerance to exercise, physical activity is still a safe and effective way to improve your health. Exercise can help to reduce the heightened cardiovascular disease risk that occurs due to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, while also improving mood, fatigue, stiffness, coordination, balance, and quality of life. An AEP can prescribe an exercise program that takes into account your individual needs and minimises the risk of causing a flare-up of your condition.

Chronic pain

Chronic pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, and can have differing symptoms, but it is always frustrating to manage! Your exercise physiologist can help you determine factors impacting your pain levels, help to manage loads that affect your pain, and re-educate your nervous system using exercise to minimise inappropriate pain responses.

Mental health

Mood, anxiety, and stress

Exercise is as effective as antidepressant medication for treating mild-to-moderate depression, helps the brain and body learn to cope with stress, and changes the way your nervous system responds to perceived threats. But when you’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or another mood disorder, or are under a lot of stress, exercising can seem like an impossible task. An AEP can work with you to identify and manage your barriers to exercise and help you to find types of movement that you enjoy, taking care of your physical and mental health.

Body image and disordered eating

Exercise can be a great tool to improve body image and self-esteem, but it can also become a destructive and disordered behaviour. An exercise physiologist can help you to understand your relationship with exercise and body image, prescribing movement (and rest!) that you enjoy. An exercise physiologist can also be involved in eating disorder (ED) treatment alongside ED specialists to determine when and if exercise can be performed safely, while helping you to find what a healthy relationship to exercise looks like for you.

Neurodiversity

Issues with executive dysfunction, sensory processing, interoception, and emotional regulation can interfere with your ability to maintain an active lifestyle. Your AEP can help you to find strategies to incorporate exercise into your life and find modes of exercise that you enjoy.

Substance use disorders

Exercise can help to manage the underlying mental health concerns that can lead to substance abuse, while also helping to reduce cravings, manage stress, and improve physical health. If you are working on improving your health and managing substance use but are finding it difficult to get or stay active, an AEP can help you to exercise in a way that you enjoy while providing additional motivation and social support.

leg exercise

Injury prevention and rehabilitation

If you’re interested in trying a new sport or hobby, or simply want to ensure you don’t need to give up your favourite active pastime due to injury, an exercise physiologist can help you to build the fitness and skills you need to minimise injury risk. Injury doesn’t mean you have to give up sport completely, however – your AEP can help get you ready to return to play after a sporting injury through prescribing exercise to safely build back your fitness.

Adaptive exercise

Exercise is for everybody, but information about how to exercise with disabilities can be hard to come by. An AEP can work with you to find ways you can enjoy movement and reap the benefits of exercise while meeting your unique needs – physical, mental, and emotional.

pregnant woman exercising

Pre- and post-natal

The physiological changes that occur during pregnancy and after giving birth can make participating in exercise more complicated – never mind trying to fit exercise in with a newborn baby! Exercise is usually safe and healthy throughout all stages of pregnancy, but your AEP can ensure that you and baby stay safe while monitoring for risk of pre-eclampsia, and managing conditions including gestational diabetes, pelvic floor dysfunction, and diastasis recti.

Healthy aging

As well as managing chronic disease risk into old age, exercise is important to reduce risk of falling and fall injury severity, so you can stay healthy and independent while you age. One of the major factors affecting falls risk is muscular power, or how fast your muscles can produce a force – if you trip, your muscles need to contract quickly and with enough force to prevent you from falling over! Exercise can also help to maintain your bone density to ensure that if you do fall, you aren’t injured as severely. Your AEP can help you to exercise to optimise your muscle power and bone density, while improving your balance and coordination, and considering your own needs, preferences, and other conditions you may have.

Complex presentations

Every single individual is unique, and may have a variety of different symptoms, diagnoses, and healthcare needs. Your AEP will prescribe exercises to meet your goals, while understanding the various ways that different conditions can interact and change your response to exercise. The vast majority of people can benefit from increased physical activity – an AEP can monitor for risks and help you stay safe while getting active.

Do you think you’d benefit from seeing an Exercise Physiologist? Book a free discovery consultation at Acacia Well-Being online now, call 1300 800 993, or email info@acaciawellbeing.com.au for more information about how you can access AEP services and take control of your health and well-being.

We are continuing to provide all services with additional precautions in place to safeguard the health and well-being of our clients, staff and the community. We are pleased to offer appointments with our Counselling team, Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist either face-to-face (wearing appropriate face masks), or via telehealth with secure video and phone consultations available. Remedial Massage therapy is able to continue under our COVID Safe Management Plan. To make an appointment please call us on 1300 800 993, send us a message, or book online.